TARTA worker rescues gull snared by fishing hooks

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Apr. 26—Ivol Caudill has chased off thousands of gulls from the roof of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority's headquarters on Central Avenue, but he hadn't ever rescued one until Monday.

When Mr. Caudill went to the roof that morning for the daily rounds of chasing gulls away to prevent them from building nests, he noticed one of them wasn't leaving.

"I noticed one off in the distance that didn't appear to want to fly away," he said. "It looked like it was in some kind of distress."

As he approached, he discovered a twin-hook fishing lure was to blame, one hook caught on a foot and the other embedded in a wing.

"Sadly, we see this a lot," Laura Zitzelberger of Nature's Nursery said. "These lures look like something to eat. They look like little fish. They go to grab those and they're literally hooked."

The TARTA gull, later determined to be a ring-billed gull, couldn't fly away so it was easy to catch, Mr. Caudill said. He used a fleece jacket from TARTA's lost and found to safely wrap the bird up and wore gloves to protect his hands from the bird's defensive bites.

"I climbed down two ladders with it in my arms, wrapped up in a jacket," he said.

With approval from his bosses at TARTA, Mr. Caudill drove the bird to Nature's Nursery near Whitehouse where a veterinarian placed it under anesthesia to remove the lure, which was equipped with three-pronged hooks.

"The removal has to be done properly," Ms. Zitzelberger said. "These treble hooks, especially, are hard. You have to cut off the barbs."

The bird had wounds on both feet, and another on a leg where it looked like a hook had been stuck and ripped away. Ms. Zitzelberger said the vet expects the wounds will heal well enough on their own, but the bird was also thin and dehydrated.

"That's the bigger health risk right now," she said.

She said the wildlife rehabilitation center gets maybe a dozen birds each year who have been hurt by fishing tackle, be it lines, hooks, lures, sinkers, or other fear. That doesn't account for the many more that the center gets calls for but are ultimately unable to be caught, nor for turtles and other creatures.

"Sometimes we'll take an X-ray and we'll see an animal has swallowed a hook," Ms. Zitzelberger said. "We know that it can't always be avoided, but please, please, please try to clean up your gear."

Mario Campos, owner of Maumee Tackle, said anglers need to take a personal responsibility to make every effort to retrieve their tackle if at all possible to keep waterways clean and enjoyable for all. The same goes for general refuse like bottles and wrappers.

"It's just lazy," he said. "The big, big thing is the line and the trash people carry with them. As the water warms up, we start to look for white bass coming in, and that brings in a ton of people from all over the area."

Mr. Campos said it doesn't take much to just take an extra bag along to pick up both your own items and any others you may find along the way. Thankfully, awareness is slowly increasing.

"It's getting better, and they're not afraid to call out their fellow man," he said. "The waterways in our country are getting cleaner."

Partners for Clean Streams sponsors and maintains recycling boxes for fishing line along waterways, in tackle shops, and other areas. The nonprofit also runs an annual summer cleanup effort called Get the Lead Out when water levels are down.

"In this area, with so much fishing, we naturally come across a lot of fishing line and hooks and lures," Kris Patterson, executive director, said. "There is just a lot of entanglement and snag areas. Right now, we're really focused on recycling fishing line."

To find a fishing line recycling bin, visit partnersforcleanstreams.org.

First Published April 26, 2021, 5:11pm